Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Michael B. Oren's Six Days of War tells the fascinating story of the Six-Day War of 1967. In this conflict, Israel defeated several of its Arab neighbors to retain its territory and claim some additional territory, such as the West Bank, the Sinai peninsula, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, and much of the city of Jerusalem. Some of the most significant characters include Moshe Dayan, a charismatic Israeli general; King Hussein of Jordan; General Gamal Abdul Nasser, the leader of Egypt, and President Lyndon Johnson.
Oren shows how decisions made by this cast of characters—for good or ill—led to the decisive Israeli victory. He contends that the Six-Day War was less a result of conscious, informed decisions; rather, he argues, it was more of a series of blunders and automatic actions on the part of those involved. For instance, a mutual defense agreement between Syria and Egypt made war much more likely. The Soviet Union provided Egypt with false reports that Israeli forces were gathering along the Syrian border. This mistake prompted Nasser to make the tragic decision to amass his own troops along the border, near the Straits of Tiran.
Lyndon Johnson, the US President, considered this decision to be a major mistake and provocative act, one which made war almost inevitable. Israel's leadership interpreted this as an act of war. Moshe Dayan, who had just become Israel's Defense Minister, mobilized the Israeli air force quickly to neutralize the Egyptian air defense. Poor strategic decisions by Nasser resulted in a near-complete Israeli victory over the Egyptian air force. Israel took advantage of surprise to quickly advance using a combination of tanks, infantry, and air power.
As Oren shows, the outcome of the Six-Day War was in large measure due to the judgment and character of the major personalities involved, such as Nasser and Dayan, and on their ability to read (or misread) the situation in which they found themselves.